Are you Avoiding Following-Up?
Having taught hundreds of heart-centred business owners over the past decade I know that one area of sales most people struggle with is the whole “following up” bit.
You’ll probably recognise it – it goes something like this:
You meet someone while networking (this could be online or offline). You introduce yourself with your Captivating Introduction. They indicate that they might be interested in what you do and at this stage it might be no more than that, especially if they are British (we do tend to be quite low key, especially when we are interested – after all the last thing we want to do is give someone the “wrong idea” and end up being “sold” to!). So you arrange with them that you will follow up in the next couple of days to have a more detailed conversation to explore whether working together would be a good fit (so far so good), and you go home full of excitement.
But then the next day you start to say to yourself:
“Should I really contact them?”
“Maybe they were just being polite”
“If I contact them doesn’t this make me just the same as the people who ring me up to sell me a PPI refund or a new boiler?”
“What if they reject me and then I’ll feel bad?”
“Actually I’m sure they are very busy – too busy to want to talk to me”
“Oh yes, they are very busy, so I’d better not disturb them, after all, I’m a nice person”
“So OK, I will leave it for a few days until I feel it’s a better moment”
“And of course, if they really want to work with me they will call me, won’t they?”
Well NO, they probably won’t!
You could almost say that there is an unspoken etiquette here – your client is waiting for you to make the first move.
And if you are not doing that, you’ll be amazed at how many opportunities you are missing out on.
Here are some examples from my own experience:
In the early years of my business I was actively looking for a new accountant and I met one at an event I attended. He didn’t have a business card on him so he said he’d call me on Tuesday (so far so good – he was maintaining control of the follow-up). But the week rolled by and no call, and another week, and I started to wonder: Is he nervous about following up or is he just disorganised and unreliable? I couldn’t tell… He did eventually call, but my faith in him had already been dented.
The Project Manager
I once had a conversation with someone about managing a technical project within my business. For a number of reasons it wasn’t the right time for me to get started, so we agreed that she would contact me again in the first week of December to get the ball rolling. The first week of December rolled by – and the second week – and then suddenly it was March, and so I began talking to other providers about taking on the project.
But I’m the client you might be thinking, if I want her help why don’t I just call her?
Well, that’s because it’s not just the business owners who “make up stories” about what other people are thinking. Clients do it too!
“She’s probably had a change of business direction and is no longer interested in projects like mine”
“She must be fully booked and doesn’t need any new clients or she would have got in touch”
“She knew how serious I was so if she wanted to work with me she would call”
So you see, your client expects that if you want the business you will make the first move. Here’s another example from my own experience:
The Personal Stylist
A few years ago I met a personal stylist at a time when I was seriously thinking that my image needed an overhaul as I was becoming more visible in my business. I asked her for her business card but didn’t have one. She said she would call me but I heard nothing – at all.
This is the story I “made up”:
“She probably doesn’t want to work with me – perhaps she didn’t think I was the right sort of client for her”
Several months later I bumped into her again and we got chatting. I asked her why she didn’t contact me.
“Oh, she said. I didn’t think you were serious and I didn’t want to bother you”
Great, so mystery solved – but by then I was working with another personal stylist so the opportunity for her had passed.
These examples represent a lot of missed business and I wouldn’t have been the only client that they lost out on due to not following up confidently.
So my message today:
Do it politely. Do it respectfully. By all means, allow the potential client to decide if they are serious and want to go ahead – but your job is to be letting them know that you are right there and available for them if they want to explore things with you.
Not following up isn’t being “non-pushy” – it’s being non-supportive and it doesn’t serve anyone.
Being “non-pushy” is making a solid follow up but also making it clear to the client that they can have an exploratory conversation with no obligation.
It is respecting them if they tell you that now isn’t a good time and then arranging a more convenient time to speak.
It is taking “no” for an answer
But being “non-pushy” is most definitely not hiding at home making excuses not to reach out.
And most clients will thank you for a polite and respectful follow up – I promise!
P.S. I wrote this post a number of years ago, and it was actually inspired by a dating scenario. As you might know, I’m a happy single and don’t tend to date much. However, one day I met a man by chance on a train and we chatted all the way from Bicester to Warwick Parkway. He intrigued me and I felt disappointed when he didn’t ask for my number. On my way home I decided to make the first move – just like you do on your way home from those networking events.
But then I got home and I did nothing.
Instead, I spent a whole week making up stories:
“If he wanted to hear from me again he would have asked for my number”
“He’s probably too busy with his work to be interested”
“Anyway he’s probably married”
And then I realised what I was doing! Exactly what I tell my clients not to do – I was “making up stories” and then using them as an excuse not to take action.
So I found him on Linkedin and sent him a message (OK, I did have to take a deep breath first!).
And he replied. He said he was glad I had tracked him down and asked if I’d like to meet up sometime.
It just goes to show – it’s all in the Follow Up!
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